Accessibility at home

With the right modifications and mobility aids, a house can become a home – an accessible home at that! WANITA WALLACE looks at accessories and automation solutions that give people with disabilities more freedom in the home

Even if you find technology daunting, automation can be your best friend. Examples of basic automation include smart TVs, automatic door and garage-door openers, timers on a coffee machine and remote controls.

“For those who are unsure about what home automation is, it’s easier to think of the sort of functions in the home that are activated with a switch or button of some sort,” says Cliff Court, CEO of Coral Tech, a company with many years of experience in developing both mobile and web-based software solutions.

“This would include lights, TVs, decoders, radios and phone calls. Home automation allows these switches or buttons to be controlled using a smartphone app, for example. For those with more severe physical disabilities, voice is a much better option.”

During early research into developing its voice-activated quality of life (VoQol) system, which uses the latest voice-activated devices, Coral Tech spoke to several individuals with different disabilities. Their most common feedback was a desire to perform more tasks by themselves.

Many of these tasks are considered basic for most people but are out of the question for people with physical disabilities. Some of the people interviewed indicated that they found having to call a carer to be demeaning and it lowered their self-esteem. Home automation hands control back to these individuals, Court says.

“A situation from our early research demonstrates this very well. Take, for instance, a C4 quadriplegic we encountered. He often wakes up in the middle of the night because he’s hot and sweating. He could call a carer using a blow pipe, but he feels bad about waking them up at that time,” he explains.

“So, he would lie there – hot and unable to sleep. Now that this individual has the VoQol system, he uses his voice to turn on the lights, the fan and then the TV, changing channels if he wants to. Once he cools down, he turns off the TV, fan and light, and goes back to sleep.

“It’s hard to place a value on such an ability for the individual, but this real-world story provides an excellent example of the impact of automation for people with disabilities,” Court adds.

Privacy in the bedroom and bathroom is an incredible luxury that most can enjoy with the correct modifications and mobility aids. Here are a few options:

In the bathroom

Wheelchair users might have difficulty completing daily tasks, such as getting into and out of the bath, in a traditional bathroom. Mobility aids allow them to perform these tasks independently. The type of mobility impairment will determine the required aids and adaptation.

There are various types of bathroom aids available, including shower chairs, commodes, electric bath lifts and tap turners. The latter is a simple device that attaches to the tap to provide leverage and grip, which is excellent for persons with reduced hand dexterity or poor grip. It is inexpensive and practical, with a variety of different types to choose from.

Grab rails offer added support and security when getting around the bathroom, shower or toilet and they are available in different lengths, styles and colours.

There is no reason to compromise style when looking for mobility aids either. Amazon, for example, offers a wall-mounted, folding shower-seat bench, which is smooth, easy to clean and convenient, and saves space. It comes in a variety of models, including a beautiful wood-and-steel seat. A folding seat is ideal if you share your home with other individuals who might not need a shower seat.

In the bedroom

Not everyone has the luxury of space, but with a bit of thought and the right assistive device the bedroom can be more accessible and comfortable. A hoist to assist with transfers to the bed from the wheelchair or vice versa is a great example of a device ideal for the bedroom. There are many different types and styles, some of which include a hydraulic crank or electric motor.

Even making the bed can be a breeze with the help of automation. You can now convert your current bed into a dual-zone, climate-controlled, self-making bed. With SmartDuvet, all it takes to make your bed is the press of a button! It is also temperature controlled, which means less sweating. SmartDuvet is shipped worldwide – you only require the appropriate power adapter.

In the kitchen

People with disabilities may have difficulties holding eating utensils or drinking from a glass or mug.

There are various adapted eating utensils to assist. For example, a cutlery set with a bendable fork and spoon, which features a soft, ribbed, weighted handle and a bendable shaft that helps keep your hand steady. It can be bent for either left- or right-handed use.

There is also an optional eating utensil strap, which is ideal for individuals with reduced grip.

Another example is the chef knife, which has an easy-grip ergonomic handle that allows you to keep your wrist in a natural, stress-free position, which minimises cutting effort. Adapted plates, plate guards, scoop bowls and divided plates can also be handy.

Some people may have a hard time drinking from cups or mugs, as they aren’t able to tilt their heads back. A covered cup with a straw that helps prevent spilling, or one that is held firmly in place on the table, would be ideal.

What would a kitchen be without the latest gadgets? For those who enjoy a good cup of tea there is the Drive Uccello Kettle – a modern, stylish kettle designed for those who have difficulty pouring.

Its stable base holds the kettle in place while it’s tilted with one hand to allow for safe pouring. A built-in stainless-steel heating element allows for safe warming without having to use the stove. The kettle is available to purchase online from a United States-based company. Visit www.rehabmart.com to find out more.

These are just some examples of what can be done to make your life easier. You only need to put a little thought and research into making your house your home.

For more information about the various companies that supply home accessories, visit the ROLLING INSPIRATION website and see our 2019 A-Z Guide.

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